Two members of the Joey Howlett Junior Saints, a Mummers group, carried a sign in Thursday’s Mummer’s Parade that read: “Free Big Red” with pictures of their red-headed friend.
Their reasoning? If a South Philadelphian won’t participate in the traditional Mummers Day parade, embarrass him until he does.
Under the redrawn route, the 2015 parade only stretched one mile from City Hall to South Philadelphia.
“He’s our friend and he doesn’t go out on New Year’s,” Tim Cacciatore, 21, of 2nd Street, said. “He hates New Year’s and he’s from Philly. And he’s stuck inside.”
“He’s stuck inside all the time because of his girlfriend,” Cacciatore’s friend and fellow Mummer, Nick Gautieri, 20, of Front and Wolf Streets, deadpanned. “So we’re trying to Free Big Red and get it out there for everybody to help.”
The two friends who grew up together call themselves “city brothers.”
“We’ve been doing this our whole lives,” Cacciatore said, while holding the sign, a Miller Lite can and puffing on a cigarette.
“I’m 20 years old,” Gautieri said with a mouth full of fake gold teeth. “This is my 20th year. I’ve been doing this since I was in a stroller.”
So many outsiders find it difficult to understand what the parade is about and what it is, the two acknowledged, but had no trouble answering a question they say they answered many times before.
“It’s strutting and dancing to the music,” Cacciatore said. “It’s a party.”
Meg Feerick and her two cousins came down from New York to see what all the Mummer hoopla was all about. “It’s something different,” she said.
Feerick described it as a “Very creative situation.”
Pat Mulraney, a native of Houston and graduate of Texas A&M University, took in his first-ever parade on Thursday.
He was persuaded by his brother-in-law, Joe Hall, who said he wasn’t thrilled about the changed.
“It sucks,” Hall said. “They should bring back the prize for the Mummer’s too. The city took away the $150,000 prize because the city’s broke. Maybe Tom Wolf can get it back.”
So, what’s Big Red missing?
“A bunch of people with open containers drinking outside,” Mulraney said.
Come February, about 10 of the total 17 Mummers string bands will break back out their New Year’s Day best for a Mardi Gras parade down Main Street.
The parade, which will start at 10 a.m. and last until noon, will take place on Feb. 22.
This is the 100-year-old groups first foray into Manayunk. The group hopes the parade becomes a new yearly tradition.
Some of the money raised at the new February parade will help defray costs of the historic New Year’s Day tradition.